How Far We've Come
Before we dive into a technical discussion of the current state of the art in reciprocating aircraft engine technology, here's a quick trivia question to get us started: Who built the first successful piston aircraft engine? Obviously the answer is the guy who built the engine that powered the first airplane, the Wright Flyer. We don't celebrate it, but Thursday, Feb. 12, 1903, ranks as one of the most important days in aviation history in terms of piston engine aircraft. To the Wright brothers, it was everything. On this date, the bicycle builders from Dayton, Ohio, finally had confirmation that their fanciful dreams of being the first to achieve manned, powered flight were close to coming true — they finally had an engine.